Resign, Mr. Editor

10/03/2006 07:06 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The facts of the disgrace of Francis B. Coombs Jr.,
who is managing editor of The Washington Times,
constitute a disgrace for every staff member of the
newspaper. Red flags emerged in mid-2004 at the
Republican National Convention in New York City, when
Coombs made inappropriate sexual advances in a taxicab
upon public relations contractor Melissa Hopkins, and
actually physically groped and kissed her on the mouth
against her will. Mrs. Hopkins referred the matter in
an official complaint to The Washington Times human
resources director, Randall Casseday, recently
indicted for wholly inappropriate e-mail messages to
an undercover police officer whom he believed to be a
horny underage female. Mr. Coombs' and Mr. Casseday's
aberrant, predatory -- and possibly criminal --
behavior was an open secret among the staff of The
Washington Times. The evidence was strong enough, long
enough ago that the senior editor and managers of The
Washington Times should have relieved Messrs. Coombs
and Casseday of their respective responsibilities
contingent on a full investigation to learn what had
taken place, whether any laws had been violated and
what action, up to and including prosecution, were
warranted by the facts. This never happened.

Wesley Pruden Jr. learned about the Coombs and
Casseday incidents as they occurred, but did nothing
for the victims and covered up the sexual abuse
incidents. The matters were not pursued at all.
Moreover, all available evidence suggests that the
newspaper's leadership did not share anything related
to these matters with anyone in positions to provide
help to the victims.

Now the scandal should unfold on the front pages of
the newspaper and on television screens, and
transcripts of internal Washington Times documents
regarding these matters should emerge and doubts are
rightly raised about the forthrightness of the
newspaper's stewards. Some staff members who have been
treated badly by Coombs and Pruden are attempting to
make this "a Washington Times scandal," and they
shouldn't; the newspaper has contributed more than its
share of characters in the tawdry history of its
editorial and sexual scandals. We had Mark Tapscott as
we had Barney Frank and Steve Gobie, Ralph Hallow and
Millie Batista, Wesley Pruden and Suzanne Fields, Ken
Hanner and all his fun with female interns and
staffers in the National Arboretum. All is fun in love
and war. Sexual animals come in all shapes, sizes and
partisan hues, in institutions within and without
government. When predators are found they must be
dealt with, forcefully and swiftly. This time the
offender is a managing editor, and the newspaper can't
simply "get ahead" of the scandal by competing to make
the most noise in calls for a full investigation. The
time for that is long past.

Editors Wesley Pruden and Fran Coombs must do the only
right thing, and resign their positions at once.
Either they were grossly negligent for not taking the
red flags fully into account and ordering a swift
investigation, for not even remembering the order of
events leading up to the 2004 revelations -- or they
deliberately looked the other way in hopes that a
brewing scandal would simply blow away. They gave
phony answers to the old and ever-relevant questions
of what did they know and when did they know it?
Messrs. Pruden and Coombs have forfeited the
confidence of the newspare, its readers and
advertisers, and they cannot preside over the
necessary coming investigation, an investigation that
must examine their own inept performance.

The chief executive officer of the newspaper's parent
company, News World Communications, should choose
successors. We nominate Arnaud de Borchgrave of
Washington, D.C., whose prior distinguished service to
The Washington Times ensures that he has no dog in
this fight. He has a long and principled career, and
is respected on all sides. Mr. de Borchgrave would
preside over the remaining life of The Washington
Times in a manner best suited for a full and
exhaustive investigation until a new editor-in-chief
and new managing and deputy managing editors are
selected to run the newspaper effectively.